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Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Australia

Best places to travel in December 2021

In December, you can relax in a natural hot spring in Japan before visiting snow monkeys that do the same, enjoy a private tour of the Louvre without the usual crowds or nibble king cake in Portugal. The month offers a wealth of options across the globe, so we’ve listed some of the most popular destinations. We’ve also suggested a few you might not have thought of, where you can take advantage of quieter cities to enjoy sights that are often very busy.

Hike through caves in Vietnam, ply the Amazon’s tributaries by boat in Peru or just relax under sunny skies in Australia or the Algarve.

Festivals and events around the world in December

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Germany

December sees Germany in full festive mode as Christkindlmarkts (Christmas markets) set up shop in even the smallest town squares, and snow often falls. It’s cold, yes, but manageably so, and as long as you plan your visit well in advance, you’ll likely still have your first choice of places to stay and visit during this busy period. The Christkindlmarkts in Germany are some of the finest in Europe, with seasonal food and drink for sale, along with many handmade gifts and handicrafts. The German countryside is also often a spectacle in December: you might be treated to the sight of Bavarian castles and valleys draped in snow.

Christmas market, Munich
Christmas market, Munich

Dubai

Dubai offers a chance to escape the harsh temperatures of a northern hemisphere winter. Sunlight and warm weather make it an ideal time to lounge around hotel pools or sunbathe, although the seawater can sometimes still be a little too cold for swimming. It’s also a time when the emirate erupts with a host of festivals catering to many different interests, including the World Rugby Sevens Series and the Dubai International Film Festival. On and around the annual anniversary of the UAE’s independence, known as National Day, there are fireworks and often visual art shows.

Dubai beach
Dubai beach

Vietnam

Though there’s still the chance of rain in central Vietnam, the rest of the country is dry in December. This does mean there are more visitors at this time, especially in the south. In the northern areas, temperatures can get cool in the evenings, but the southern coastal areas are balmy and bright — ideal weather for beach relaxation. Plan to book early, especially if you’re visiting popular destinations like Phu Quoc, Mui Ne and Phen Thiet or want to travel near the end of the month — Christmas and New Year are busy times in Vietnam.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam
Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Italy

Italy enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate, which means winters here are cool rather than cold, though sometimes wet. This means December is a good time to explore the cities, where you’ll be able to visit popular sights and explore museums with few other visitors. Areas like the Amalfi Coast and Tuscany will be very quiet, and you may find that some attractions have limited opening hours. The lead up to Christmas in Italy is celebrated with nativities, special markets and squares decked out in lights, while churches fill with worshippers, especially in Rome, where the Christmas Eve Mass is particularly popular.

Doge's Palace, Venice
Doge's Palace, Venice

Spain

Though the northern reaches of Spain can get chilly and wet in December, Andalusia usually boasts mild temperatures and sunny skies, as well as the fragrant scent of orange trees blooming. Regardless of where you go, you’re likely to be one of just a handful of visitors, making this an excellent time to see otherwise crowded sights like the Alhambra in Granada or the Mezquita in Córdoba. The cities are decked out for Christmas and you’ll find elaborate nativities as well as special foods for the season such as pestiños, little golden balls of fried dough rolled in aniseed or sesame seeds.

Alhambra, Granada
Alhambra, Granada

Peru

December is a wet, warm month in Peru, and you’ll encounter few other visitors. The rains create verdant scenery, and birds and orchids flourish in the cloudforests. If you’re visiting the Amazon, the waters will be higher than during the dry season, which means you’ll be able to explore the smaller tributaries that are too low in other months. If you’re in Cuzco for Christmas Eve, the Santurantikuy Market bustles with people drinking hot chocolate and vendors from the high Andes selling grasses and plants for the nativity manger.

Macaws clay lick, Peruvian Amazon
Macaws clay lick, Peruvian Amazon

Portugal

Throughout Portugal you’ll generally find more sun than rain and warmer temperatures than elsewhere in Europe. The Algarve tends to have particularly sunny skies and warm temperatures, attracting visitors to its sandy beaches. Excepting the week around Christmas, you’ll find hotels offer excellent value for money. Every town and village is decorated for the holiday and you can enjoy seasonal treats like bolo rei, a king cake that’s made from rich dough and studded with dried fruits and nuts.

Sandstone cliffs, Algarve
Sandstone cliffs, Algarve

France

Though the temperatures are cool and the weather sometimes wet, December is an exceptional time to visit Paris. You’ll enjoy shorter lines and fewer visitors at popular destinations like the Eiffel Tower, while a large collection of Christmas markets pop up around the city. Merrily lit cafés make a welcoming retreat from any wintry weather and, if you’re lucky, you might get to enjoy a dusting of snow. The countryside is much quieter, with many places closed for the season — if you’re looking for a secluded retreat, you can usually take advantage of steep discounts at those hotels that remain open.

Eiffel Tower, Paris
Eiffel Tower, Paris

India

December is one of the most popular months to visit India. Temperatures drop, creating more comfortable conditions for exploring, though early mornings and evenings can be chilly. It’s a good time to take in the sights of Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra without the summer heat, although be prepared for some fog in the mornings, which tends to clear to crisp blue skies. We also recommend staying in the south of the country, where it’s sunny and warm, although you’ll need to plan in advance as many people flock here for a festive break.

Taj Mahal, Agra
Taj Mahal, Agra

Thailand

With good weather wherever you are, December is one of the best months to visit Thailand. Unfortunately this is a well-known fact, and you won’t be the only one heading to its shores. We recommend visiting toward the start of the month to avoid the busy festive period. It’s a great time for diving and snorkeling along the southwest coast, where you’ll find the water clear and calm, with fewer visitors than the west coast. Koh Samui can see rainfall at this time of year, but everywhere else is warm and dry without being too hot.

Longtail boats, Thailand
Longtail boats, Thailand
Travel Ideas in January

Places to travel in January

As Christmas slopes into the distance, journeying to find some sun is an appealing prospect for January. We recommend beach time on a Caribbean island, a secluded Cambodian archipelago or Vietnam’s sandy shores. It’s also summer in Australia, a season celebrated with outdoor cinema screenings, festivals and sporting events.

In Africa, the January rains break the Kalahari heat and the quenched plains spring to life. Journey to Botswana to watch new-born zebra take their first steps, as migratory birds feast on the fresh grasses. If you’re after cooler climes, temperatures in India have cooled enough to make exploring its fortress cities comfortable. Or, embrace winter in Paris, where crisp, clear skies showcase the monument-filled skyline and fewer visitors make for an ideal Louvre museum experience.

Places to travel

Travel Ideas in February

Places to travel in February

Whether you’re wrapping up warm to experience wintry activities like a troika (sleigh) ride in Russia, or looking to escaping the colder temperatures at home with a cruise along the Nile under sunny skies, February can make an excellent time to travel. A safari in Tanzania gives you a chance to see new-born antelope take their first wobbly steps, while warm temperatures in Argentina make it an ideal time for trekking in Patagonia.

We’ve shared some of the most popular destinations to visit in February below, as well as a few countries that you may not have considered, where you can visit key sights without the crowds.

Places to travel

Travel Ideas in March

Places to travel in March

As winter turns to spring across the Northern Hemisphere, Japan’s blooms start to emerge, and milder temperatures coupled with the showings of early plum blossom make it a good-value time to travel here ahead of the peak season. Portugal also begins to warm, making it a good time for coastal hikes and city sightseeing without the summer crowds.

In South Africa, the wine harvests are in full swing and Kruger wildlife is at its healthiest among the fresh, green vegetation following the rains. Warmer temperatures and sunny skies show the beaches of Sri Lanka and Morocco at their best. Meanwhile, cooler climes in New Zealand makes March an excellent month to explore, with quieter walking trails, near-empty coastlines and a good chance of sunshine.

Places to travel

Harrismith Beach, Barbados

Places to travel in April

If you’re looking to go on safari, April is the best month to tiger-spot in India’s national parks, where you’ll also see a supporting cast of elephants, deer, and birdlife. For a coastal escape, you’ve got your pick, including Mexico’s Mayan Riviera and secluded Maldivian islands.

If you’re seeking adventure, this is the time of year to take an in-depth tour across Vietnam, or explore the highlights of Morocco at their best. April is also a month of festivities around the globe, from the Festa di San Marco in Italy and cherry blossom celebrations in South Korea to Caribbean regattas and music festivals.

Places to travel

Travel Ideas in May

Places to travel in May

Across the northern hemisphere, May brings spring blossoms, sunshine, and warmer weather, but the summer crowds haven’t arrived to most destinations. In the southern hemisphere, the rains are ending and the weather is starting to cool down a bit.

If you want to get outside to enjoy the ample sun, you might hike in Scotland, look for wildlife in US National Parks, or take a water safari in a mokoro canoe in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. It’s also a popular time for festivals, whether you’re in Venice to watch the mayor pledge himself in a symbolic wedding to the sea, watching jazz performances in Saint Lucia, or sampling single-source organic chocolate in Belize.

Places to travel

Herd of elephants in South Africa

Places to travel in June

The solstice at the end of June brings long days to destinations in the northern hemisphere, making it an excellent time to get outdoors. You can roam through Canada’s wilderness, hike in Germany’s Black Forest or soak up the sun in the French Riviera.

This is also a popular month for festivals. For example, Greece’s Athens and Epidaurus Festival lets you watch ancient plays performed in ancient venues, while in Peru, you can attend a festival celebrating the Inca sun god, Inti. The month also marks the end of the rainy season in places like Uganda and the Zanzibar Archipelago, where you’ll find well-watered landscapes bursting with life, but mostly sunny skies.

Places to travel

Travel Ideas in July

Places to travel in July

July gives you many destinations to consider if you’re looking to experience them in their prime. Explore the great outdoors while the sun shines in the US’s northern states, Austria or Switzerland. Balance beach relaxation with culture or wildlife in Costa Rica, French Polynesia or Vietnam. Or, in Kenya, be among the first of the season to see the Great Migration herds arrive as they make their frenzied crossing of the Mara River.

July is also one of the only months you can cruise the Arctic or hike in the mountains of Ladakh. And, in Japan, you can escape the summer humidity in the Japanese Alps.

Places to travel

Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka

Places to travel in August

Many destinations are ripe for a summer break in August. For a trip focused around wildlife, consider a safari in Tanzania, which experiences its dry season, a trip to Borneo to see turtles hatch, or a visit to Brazil’s Pantanal for a shot at seeing a jaguar.

Elsewhere, beaches are at their best on Sri Lanka’s north and east coasts, Iceland’s interior has thawed out ready for you to explore on foot and by superjeep, while northern Australia is dry, sunny and comfortably warm for hikes. Alternatively, you might like to soak up the culture in Luxembourg or the Netherlands, stay on a hacienda in Ecuador’s countryside or enjoy a family escape to Mauritius.

Places to travel

Lion, Etosha National Park

Places to travel in September

Whether falling in autumn or spring, September can showcase countries at their most scenic, from the green, lamb-dotted valleys of New Zealand and the wildflower-coated countryside of Argentina to Russia’s rust-hued city parks.

In Canada, the salmon run sees bears gather for a feeding frenzy along British Columbia’s rivers. Bhutan’s clear skies are ideal for hiking among its mountains, while similar conditions in Bolivia make for excellent photography around its salt pans. Spain and Turkey are pleasantly warm without the crowds of summer. And, in South Africa, you can combine regions while they’re at their best. It’s also an excellent time for seeing Namibia’s wildlife and stargazing among its desert dunes.

Places to travel

Amalfi coast, Italy

Places to travel in October

Whether you’re looking for spring blooms, autumnal foliage or prime wildlife-viewing opportunities, you’ll find plenty of destinations to choose from if you’re planning to travel in October. Below are just some of the places we feel are at their best at this time of year, along with our suggestions on the best things to do there.

You could make the most of excellent hiking conditions in New Zealand, go whale watching in South Africa, or indulge in fresh produce during harvest time in Vietnam, Japan or Italy. And, in many of our chosen countries, you’ll be visiting outside the busiest times of year.

Places to travel

Travel Ideas in November

Places to travel in November

Sunny beaches in Thailand, wintry cities in France and blazing foliage in Japan — you can choose from a wide variety of destinations if you’re planning to travel in November. Below, we’ve selected some of the best places to visit, as well as some suggestions of what to see and do while you’re there.

Popular cities in Europe empty out, giving you free run of museums in France, Spain and Italy. Crowds also thin in Peru, so you’ll have more elbow room to enjoy Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Thailand and Vietnam both have sunny weather suitable for a beach break, while Morocco’s hot temperatures decline, making it a great time to explore the main cities.

Places to travel

Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Australia

Places to travel in December

In December, you can relax in a natural hot spring in Japan before visiting snow monkeys that do the same, enjoy a private tour of the Louvre without the usual crowds or nibble king cake in Portugal. The month offers a wealth of options across the globe, so we’ve listed some of the most popular destinations. We’ve also suggested a few you might not have thought of, where you can take advantage of quieter cities to enjoy sights that are often very busy.

Hike through caves in Vietnam, ply the Amazon’s tributaries by boat in Peru or just relax under sunny skies in Australia or the Algarve.

Places to travel